When aspiring doctor Marisa Zayat was choosing between schools, she was told by one of Newman University’s ambassadors that 96 percent of premed students at the university were accepted into medical school. She was sold.
One semester into college, though, Zayat was surprised to find out during a leadership retreat that the university’s rather high acceptance statistic was not based off of all pre-med students who applied to medical school — only “highly recommended ones.”
In a typical year, one faculty member said, that might be three or fewer pre-med students.
“Figuring that out was a bit of a shocker to me. At first, I was a little bit upset because what I thought was the truth wasn’t actually the truth,” Zayat, a sophomore, said.
Recently, several pre-med students at Newman have raised concerns that the numbers Newman touts in its recruiting and in ads — numbers that claim 95 percent of pre-med students have been accepted into medical school over the past 17 years — are misleading.
Faculty, however, say that the way they calculate medical school acceptance rates is how most colleges do it and that it wouldn’t be fair to ask schools to figure in every student who enrolls as pre-med, even if they don’t have high achievement in the program.
Professor of Chemistry and Dean of Arts and Sciences David Shubert said it’s not reasonable to base the statistic on the number of students who apply without the recommendation of faculty because they have not demonstrated that they’re capable of handling a medical school curriculum.
“That high acceptance rate is based on students who complete the program and get a positive recommendation from the pre-med committee,” Shubert said. “The people that have demonstrated they have the academic capacity, that they have the understanding of medicine, that they have the commitment to service — virtually everybody in that group gets in.”
Shubert said the students who earn this recommendation must have high GPAs, high MCAT scores, substantial shadowing experience and an impressive service portfolio.
Associate Professor of Biology Michael Bradley said this group of students, whom he refers to as “recommended with enthusiasm,” is especially selective.
“Some years maybe two receive the highest recommendation…some years three, some years maybe none. It really just depends on the individual students,” he said.
The science department collects the data in a multi-year period because some of these individuals may not get into medical school the first time they try.
Shubert said most universities present their statistics the same way Newman does.
The university said it could not provide The Vantage with the acceptance rate based on all students who applied to medical school. The Vantage requested the statistic from multiple departments.
Zayat, who said she had to ask several people to find out how the acceptance rate was calculated, said that once she started thinking about it and the reasoning behind it, she started to understand. The administrators “actually have to see the character behind the grades, not just the grades,” she said.
“I actually came here because of that percentage and because of some of the teachers here that I met,” Zayat said. “So hearing that it was false, it was a little shocking. But, again, I don’t regret my decision to come to Newman and I really do think that if you are driven and have that passion you can be part of that 95 percent of those highly recommended.”
Freshman biology major Jonathan Liu said he agreed with Zayat and thought the university should not need to report the statistic to promote its premedical program because it is actually a strong program.
“I think the 95 percent rate is really misleading and a misrepresentation of what the acceptance rate actually is…I believe that the science professors are really good at what they’re doing to ensure students are accepted,” he said.
Sophomore biology major Stephanie Ng said she did not think much of the statistic when she made the decision to pursue medicine at Newman and assumed it was not representative of all students.
“I had always assumed that, yeah, colleges are going to make up a percentage to try to attract you to come. And you know there’s some truth in those percentages, but you have to take it sort of with a grain of salt because you don’t know if those percentages are true,” she said.
Ng said last year she could remember hearing about at least seven students who applied to medical school and did not get accepted. She said that number could change depending on who reapplied and got in this year.
Shubert said that if students maintain their 4.0 GPA, do well on the MCAT, do the service asked, and get their experience in the medical field, they are going to get into medical school. He said he has not heard of any complaints regarding the university’s statistics.
“If any students have questions, have them come by and we can talk,” he said.
This story first appeared in the March 8, 2018 issue of The Vantage. It was co-written by Courtney Klaus and Madison McCollum.